Nautical News: For the week of June 17th, 2012

COAST GUARD BELIEVES CALL FOR HELP WAS A HOAX

Hundreds of responders in boats, ambulances, and helicopters spent hours searching Sandy Hook, New Jersey after a distress call came in saying there had been an explosion aboard a yacht called Blind Date. The male caller stated that the vessel had suffered an explosion and had 21 people on board who were abandoning ship. His exact words were, “We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water right now. I have three deceased on board, nine injured, because of the explosion we’ve had. I’m in 3 feet of water, standing on the flybridge. I’m going to stand by the radio as long as I can before I have to go overboard.” As it turned out, the Coast Guard determined the call was a hoax. One that cost taxpayers upwards of $330,000. Investigators have offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator of the hoax. Last year, authorities responded to more than 60 suspected hoax calls in the northern New Jersey and New York City region.


RECREATIONAL BOATING FATALITIES INCREASED IN 2011

Recreational boating fatalities last year jumped to their highest levels since 1998 and boating under the influence was the leading contributing factor according to the Coast Guard’s 2011 report. The report was released to coincide with the annual Operation Dry Water campaign which is focused on enforcement of BUI laws and educating all boaters about the risks of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Operation Dry Water 2012 will be held nationwide June 22 – 24. Those caught operating a vessel under the influence will find their voyage terminated and their vessel impounded. Penalties may also include arrest, fines, loss of boating privileges, even loss of driving privileges in some states.


BEACHES CLOSE BECAUSE OF SO MUCH SEA WEED

Last week’s storms have left so much sea weed on the beaches that many beaches on the south shore are closed to swimming. Duxbury’s harbormaster Doug Beers said he has never seen so much sea weed on Duxbury beach in his life. Originally he thought that animal waste caused the high bacterial levels that closed the beach, but now he believes that the sea weed is definitely the source of the problem.


HERRING RETURN TO BROOK IN SCITUATE

The North South Rivers Watershed Association reports that a milestone has occurred! This spring, for the first time in decades, volunteers documented a limited number of herring that returned to the Old Oaken Bucket Pond on the First Herring Brook in Scituate. The return of the herring was made possible by the work performed by volunteers who helped clean and remove obstacles that blocked the brook. Also rules for conserving town water helped to keep the brook flowing. Every drop of water the town saves helps to keep the stream from going dry in the summer.


BEACH CLEANERS LEAVE MARBLES BEHIND

After helping to clean beaches, volunteers from Save the Harbor Save the Bay left some promotional items behind. One hundred JetBlue Airways crewmembers and volunteers from Save the Harbor Save the Bay have buried a blue Save the Harbor Save the Bay 25th Anniversary marble at the water’s edge of public beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Wollaston, and Nantasket Beach in Hull. Those who find these marbles will have a chance to win one of five prizes of donated by Jet Blue.


DISCARDING OF BYCATCH BANNED BY EUROPEAN UNION

European fishery managers have agreed to phase in new rules that prohibit the discarding of bycatch or unwanted fish at sea. Leaders in the European Union debated over 18 hours before the agreement was reached. The new rule is going into effect because in the past, tons of fish were being thrown overboard dead because they exceeded quotas or because the fishermen were throwing away smaller fish to maximize the value of their catch.


NEW ENGLAND FISHERY COUNCIL SEEKS NEW DIRECTOR

The New England Fishery Management Council, one of eight Regional Councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is seeking a new Executive Director. The Council is charged with developing fishery management plans for fisheries in the New England region. It is comprised of 21 members, consisting of fishermen, government workers, and environmentalists. The Executive Director is responsible for the management of Council operations, but serves at the pleasure of the Council and reports directly to the council’s elected Chairman.


NOAA COMMISSIONS NEW CHARTING VESSEL

NOAA just commissioned its newest coastal charting ship. It is named Ferdinand R. Hassler and will be based out of Newcastle, N.H. Hassler was a land surveyor from Switzerland who mapped the United States shoreline during the early to mid 1800s. At the time, he headed the United States Coast Survey and the Bureau of Weights and Measures. The primary mission of this new 124 foot, twin-hull ship is to continue Hassler’s mission and update the nation’s nautical charts. The ship will operate along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and the Great Lakes.


TV’s WHALE WARS CAPTAIN STILL UNDER HOUSE ARREST

TV’s Whale Wars Captain Paul Watson is still under house arrest in Germany awaiting possible extradition to Costa Rica. Captain Watson, the founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has been involved with numerous confrontations with Japanese whaling ships and with Latin American fishermen who removed the fins of sharks. Last month he was arrested at the airport in Germany while on his way to the Cannes film festival. The German and Costa Rican governments have extradition agreements between them, so the Costa Rican authorities ordered the Germans to arrest him. Watson claims the charges stem from an incident that happened 10 years ago when he and his crew encountered an illegal shark-finning operation off the Guatemalan coast. In Watson’s words: “Ten years ago we chased some poachers out of Guatemalan waters – with the permission of the Guatemalan government–and didn’t think anything of it,” Watson said. “Suddenly 10 years later, in Germany, I’m arrested because some of these poachers complained. The shark fin business is a pretty powerful entity, and I think the shark-fin mafia are probably behind this,” he said. On the positive side, Watson said his arrest and its publicity are focusing international attention on shark-finning, which results in the killing of between 70 million and 90 million sharks every year.


ALLIGATOR BITES OFF HAND THAT FEEDS IT

And last on today’s nautical news, a nine foot long alligator bit off the hand of a Florida charter boat captain who witnesses said was showing off feeding it. He wanted to give his charterboat customers a thrill by feeding the alligator marshmallows. Authorities euthanized the alligator and retrieved the hand from its stomach, but reattachment turned out to be impossible. Animal activists denounced the decision to kill the alligator in order to recover the man’s hand. They said the captain was to blame for illegally feeding the animal.


About John Shea